Friday, October 29, 2010
We woke up in the Recreation Room of Confusion Hill and were quite confused. The nice old lady woke us up and said the owner would be coming by and that we needed to get up so he wouldn't be angered. Sounded like a monster of an owner. But we appreciated the workers allowing us to "camp" in their Rec-room and so we quickly packed up our gear and bolted down a sunny road. The rain had faded and as it turns out, it was a record breaking rain that dropped more inches in those two days than any other recorded time in history and we were glad to have had a warm fun place to hole up!
We got an email that morning from a lady named Jessie in Laytonville (who I had contacted via Couchsurfing.com), down the road about 30 miles that we could come and stay with them out on their farmland about two miles from town. So we rode excitedly for Laytonville and when we got there Arian wanted a large hot pile of fries and I had a veggie burger. It was a cool little town with a couple of cafes, a well stocked market, and enough nick knack shops to keep it interesting. And it was marijuana harvest season! So there were hippies with dread locks roaming the streets in search of work. They tend to stand outside until a secret grower comes by and offer them a job harvesting the buds that people smoke to get high. I've never smoked anything like that (although people always ask me what I'm on during my exciting spastic moments) but it was interesting to see an entire supposedly illegal profession operating there. I personally think they should legalize this weed and tax it enough to pa down the national debt, but hey, that's me. People tend to abuse things more when it's against the rules just to prove they can.
So we got nourished and then we rode on out to Jessie's place where her companion Ian and two other friends dwelled on a lot of land. The dirt road leading onto the property was long and winding and then it declined at an incredible angle. They had laid rocks on the road so cars could keep their grips, but our bikes were having trouble. We didn't know if it was the right place at first because it was way out there, but seemed right from the directions. Luckily we met two other couch surfers who were both artistic folk. They had already found jobs in the area. They kindly guided us down to the little homestead and it was like entering the Rainbow Gathering. They had this cool little house hooked to a camper and lots of fields for growing crops. Ian and the others were working on a Chicken Run for the 8 chickens that were wandering around. They welcomed us wholeheartedly and told us to make ourselves at home. We unpacked our wet grimy tent and let it dry out in the last embers of the setting sun. Then the temperature dropped and night fell and we all found ourselves inside around a toasty fire talking and sharing stories and art forms. At least three of our new friends played instruments, two guitars and a mandolin, and so Arian broke out his clarinet and joined in. I proceeded to tell my new friends about there astrology charts and think I ended up doing about five 30-minute freebie sessions that blew their minds. One of the artist guys was amazed because his mind was very scientific and yet astrology grabbed him and opened his eyes to new forms of knowing. One of there roomies was Chinese and her name was Christina, which I thought was bizarre. She was from Santa Cruz, as most of them were (Jessie's family owned the land), and she spoke lots of languages. She was extremely intelligent and fascinating and continued to make us chai and almond wine while telling great stories. I never got to look at her chart, unfortunately, but it was a great night of feasting and drinking chai! Turns out that Ian and Jessie had stumbled upon a Macaroni and no cheese recipe too and made us an excellent dinner. We even had seconds! Arian was happy sitting by the fire interacting with 20-something year old progressive, artistic folks and playing his music with a full belly. The kid worships food!
Eventually we all bedded down and the other two travelers graciously offered us the fold out couch and so we slept on a cushioned surface again with warm comforters and pillows. Real pillows! We were living in luxury again! The next morning we slept in, even though I knew we needed to go like 95 miles to get to the Blue Lake area south of Laytonville near Ukiah, but it was too cozy. Everyone else got up and went to town as Jessie worked at the local health food store and today was the day that the rare bookmobile came o town. They had all placed orders for faraway books from libraries online and the bookmobile delivered them once per two weeks.
So Arian and I headed out eventually and made our way back up the treacherous rocky road. I felt like we were forgetting something, and asked Arian to double check, but he said he had everything. I didn't want to have to come back down this crazy driveway. And just when you thought the driveway was ending it would start up another slippery slope. Eventually we did reach the top and were both winded. Then we turned onto the dirt road and I realized that my rain pants were not on me! I had slid out of them and folded them up and placed them on a nearby table! I had paid $70 bucks for those pants at REI so I wasn't about to leave them, especially with the skies threatening rain again. So I left Arian there by the fence where we leaned our bikes and jogged back down the hill. It was strange to be jogging again. My entire leg musculature had been transformed and it felt really weird to run! I wanted to pedal! So there I was running down the rocky, muddy dirt road in the most awkward way possible feeling like a stick figure whose legs didn't work right anymore, when the best thing happened. The joke was on me.
While Arian was waiting at the fence four of the others came driving back form town and they asked him what happened to your dad? Arian said, "He forgot his pants!" And they all busted out laughing, I heard later. Then they caught up to me running along in my tight little padded black biker shorts and offered me a ride back to the farm. I accepted wholeheartedly!
After I retrieved my pants, we went back to town and stocked up on some food and found our way south at last passing through Willits CA where highway 20 began that would take us east and back up to Chico. The day was sunny and the rain didn't come so we rode fast and hard down many amazing mountain passes. We stopped in Willits to see if any couchsurfers were available in Ukiah but no one had responded. Ukiah was five miles out of our way anyway, so it was just as well. But now we would need to search for camping sites out in nature along the big lake where the 20 skirted across the valley passing the Blue Lakes and then the larger Clear Lake. It was a long way to a town called Lucerne and I didn't think we would make it, so I was prepared to do some stealth camping. We did pass a few campgrounds but they were all closed for the season with large bars across the entrance, so we continue on our trek as the sun begin to set. Then we came to the largest pass and looked on with disbelief at the ominous slope. Arian asked me if he could hitch-cycle, our new term for riding along and sticking out our thumbs. I told him sure, but only when he saw open-bed trucks.
No one seemed to want to pick us up though and we trekked on and upward straining and struggling with gravity and our loads. It was getting late and dark and cold and we needed to stop. But just as we were about to cres the top of this pass, a large white truck came back from the direction we were traveling and the guy asked us if we really wanted a ride over the hill, at which point let out an enthusiastic "YES!" We pulled our bikes across the road to a parking area where he had stopped and he helped us load them up. He took us about 20 miles to a town called Upper Lake, where he dropped us off at a truck stop where he though we could camp. He was going south from there and we were going east, so we thanked him and bid him farewell, and stumbled into the warm truck-stop desperate for a place to set up camp. The wind had started howling through the valley and the chill factor was intense. My shivers started to return.
We met the owner of the Three Brothers truck stop who was a Muslim Indian guy. He and his wife were working the register when Arian and I rolled in. We asked him if we could camp in their grass outside or somewhere. The guy was really gracious and quite intelligent. It turns out he spoke Indian (Urloo), Spanish, English, and German. They had several kids and one was Arian's age and played basketball. He took compassion on us and told us we cold camp out back where the truckers sleep all the way in the corner so the trucks coming in wouldn't see us. We bought some food and thanked them profusely and went out to stake out a tent site. It turns out were were exactly in the corner of a giant shadowy parking lot bordered by thick bushes. As we set up our tent the wind intensified and we were both shivering cold. It was going to be a cold night with the wind coming off the lake and the temperature plummeting. We got into our little T-3 Quarterdome tent and that took the wind chill factor off but it was still cold sleeping in a tent on the hard blacktop with the cold ness escalating. At least we had our thermarest mats! Arian wrapped his jacket tightly around his feet to keep them from freezing all night. I breathed heavily down into my sleeping bag to create a toasty environment. We heard diesels going by right outside but luckily our tent had strong reflectors and they couldn't get to us anyway in the corner unless they came right at us. I imagined a diesel plowing into us and quickly erased that thought, praying for protection. That was when we heard the wild coyotes begin howling and the dogs barking in the distance. It was going to be an interesting night!
I woke up at four in the morning and Arian was sitting straight up on top of feet. He was shivering and cold and said his feet were frozen so he had to sit on them to keep them warm. So I quickly told him to come over to my side of the tent and get into my sleeping bag with me. He was still in his bag, but we tucked him down into my toasty bag and I rubbed my warm feet against his to transfer my heat. With Sagittarius rising, my body is always warm and throwing off enthusiasm and heat. With Cancer rising, Arian is a like a wet lake and gets cold easy. We got him good and warm even though we couldn't get the zipper on my sleeping bag all the way up, so I had to sleep in the most uncomfortable position ever just to barely keep myself covered, but at least the kid was warm and sleeping well again. It would only be a few more hours before morning and we would make a bee-line for the store and brew hot tea and hang out with the friendly Indian Muslim.
Turns out that when we got inside, there he was talking Spanish to all the liquor delivery guys counting stacks of alcohol and goofing around. It was col to witness a bright spirit such as his bringing camaraderie among many races in his little truck stop. I told Arian it was bizarre to see an Indian hanging with Mexicans and said that Indian was kinda like the Mexico of Asia with the same kind of tropical climate and such devotion to family and religion, etc. Arian thought that was cool and said maybe China was the America of Asia because they had invented so many things like paper, and gunpowder, and compasses, and clocks and thst maybe Russia was the Canada of Asia, and so forth. When you get this kid's mind churning, he just goes off like a rocket swirling in his brilliance. So we talked with our Indian friend for about an hour over several rounds of hot tea and several trips to the bathroom. Eventually we downed a couple of Monsters and took off down the road. it was sunny again but chilly and we had 120 miles to get to Chico, and facing the hardest part early for 40 miles of steep hills! I knew we wouldn't make it but I hoped to get over the mountain pass and down into the central valley where they grow lots of fruit. Maybe it would be warmer down there?
We rode hard all day, mostly up impossible looking slops until finally we gave in and started hitch-cycling again where we hold out our thumbs as we ride hoping for a pick-up truck to take compassion on us. At this point I just wanted to get to Chico, reunite with my good friend Brett and get working on books and possibly get Arian into the Chico Green School, an alternative High School where they buy the kids I-pads to replace text books. Arian already had an I-pad, but he wold gladly have another for educational purposes. But I was open to getting him into regular high school too in such a cool college town. I had made a deal with his mom that if I got him into school, he could stay with me as we planned for the whole school year, which Arian really wanted to do, and then he would go down there in the summer. Brett had a six year old son named Jatin, so Arian was excited to have another kid to hang with and play toys. Arian is like Christopher Robbins on Winnie the Pooh, the caretaker of all the young kids. He has such a great imagination and love of play and a gentle nurturing demeanor. I couldn't have had a more perfect child. He is very respectful and polite and creative and I love him dearly.
So we fought the mountain passes all day long and it was about 4:30 and the sun was sinking and I began to worry about camping in the cold again like the night before. Maybe we would zip our bags together like his mom and I used to do in our twenties backpacking through Australia and down the Colorado Trail? I began searching for suitable campsites off the road in secret looking places. I was feeling tired and weak and my spirit was broken. Then we found ourselves on the side of this steep incline and a religious person wrote a chalk message on the shoulder that said, "And the Meek shall gain Strength!" Arian and I joked around that we felt pretty bottom-of-the-barrel meek at that moment. He said maybe that was a sign we were going to get a ride all the way to Chico. I hoped so. We had made a pact that morning that we were going to get up early and make it 120 miles no matter what, even if we had to ride through the dark. He wanted this pact more than me. I was perfectly prepared to camp, but he just wanted to get there badly. So just as we crossed the last high pass and were gazing down into the valley with at least 25 miles to go to get to Williams along I-5, a white truck stopped and a 59 year old guy named Mark asked us if we wanted a ride!
We were overjoyed. He told us he would take us to Williams or Colusa and we could catch the flat roads to Chico from there going north. We talked and shared many stories about our adventure and he said he had always wanted to backpack across Nevada and go down the loneliest road from hot springs to hot springs located on government land. That was col, so I encouraged him to go for it, telling him about all the elder cyclists I met in Wyoming. He phoned his son Kirk, who lived in Chico and asked him if he wanted to have dinner. He was looking for an excuse to go to Chico to visit his son. Luckily his son was there and said yes! We were going to be dropped off in downtown Chico right next to a tree outside Starbucks along Broadway st. After we thanked him, and he sped away to see his son, I turned to see Arian standing with his hand on the tree and he said, "Dad, this is the first tree we landed in Chico by, and will remember it when we ride by." I gave him a high five and then went into Starbucks to phone Brett.
Brett had just rented and moved into a new house near the college two days ago and he offered us the finished garage for $100 a week. Turns out that he was still job searching and was needing help too. So we all came together to help each other! It was great seeing each other again after five years. Brett has the same kind of dry wit and sense of zany humor that Arian and I do. We had been roommates with him in Boone NC when Arian was 4 and lived in the pantry. We had been roomies in Asheville when Arian was 6 and lived in a fort in the attic. And now we would get to be roommates in Chico CA for a time while Arian was about 15 with his son Jatin at 6. Everything runs in cycles. Arian hit it off great with Jatin and in a matter of hours they were building forts and star wars legos and engaging their imaginations in play, which a lot of adults have forgotten how to do.
The next day I decided that getting Arian into school was the priority and also the litmus test of whether or not we belonged here. I had $12 bucks in my Pay Pal debit account and Brett wanted $100 a week. So obviously I couldn't give him anything until I got my next astrology chart order. I was feeling so lost and uncertain about life. The only thing I was perfectly Buddha-minded about was my love for Arian and when I was writing. Everything else was quite nebulous. I had been on the road for a long long time and made my peace with the Scorpionic rebirth lunar progression. I still had nine months to go before the enthusiastic flames of Sagittarius kicked in. But we went down to the school and got lost on our ay there. So we went and hacked into a coffee shop's wifi and phoned them and got the exact directions. When we found the alternative high school it was lunch time and there were all these brainy, interesting kids hanging out behind a high fence in a playground area. It was definitely alternative and Arian liked it. Two strange girls greeted us at he gate and invited us to the office. We told them about ur epic journey by bike and they were amazed. The word about us spread like wildfire throughout the playground and we were invited into the office to sit down with a lady named Susan. She introduced us to the staff and the Director had indeed received my email from Oregon. He was excited to have us and he was a cyclist himself! I smiled at Arian and he smiled back. He had found his tribe!
Normally they make you fill out all these forms and then bring them back and then they set you up with an extensive interview and then they might accept you. But after an hour of hanging out with various staff members who kept floating through the office and telling them our story and about Arian, Susan scrapped the whole process, and just declared that this was such an unusual and interesting turn of events that they would admit him right now! We decided to wait till the next day because we still had some exploring to do on our bikes and Arian was hungry. He deserved the best chips, hummus, and salsa twelve bucks could buy after completing an epic trip like that. I had ridden 3128 miles and he had gone 1128 miles, according to my bike distance computer. That didn't count the hitch-cycling miles. Turns out that the school was having a Halloween Day of the Dead festival/party on Friday, the next day. Arian said he wanted to go and begin making friends. The Director wanted me to come by next week and share the story of our journey with the kids and I agreed.
Shortly thereafter, we got a donation for $20 bucks from one of our loyal readers and we went and bought some groceries to get us started. The school signed Arian up for free lunches, due to our economic situation. I feel good about being in a progressive town, ready to complete my epic magi opus work on astrology and the RPG game with Arian. I'm feeling unstable with no finances so we ask our friends and family to help us out if possible through our donation button here. If we can't afford to live here, I guess it's back down the cold lonely road for us. But we are really happy to be here and it seems like things are flowing toward us staying for a time. We'll see what happens. As always, people can order charts at my website Divine Inspiration Astrology Help us help the world with our projects!
If we continue to stay here and hole up for the winter, I will continue the blog and start to ell the stories of synchonistic encounters we have her in Chico. The town feels like Boulder to both of us, all hip and progressive and big enough to have a lot of cool stuff going on but small enough to be really welcoming and warm. And there are trees everywhere! I'm ready to write like I've never written before! Woo hoo!