Sunday, July 13, 2008

Random hospitality in Portland

Today got off to a slow start. Like a record playing the wrong speed. Mosquitos were not much of a problem last night while I was having my sunset ritual. However, a couple of them were buzzing just outside the netting of the bivy sack in the morning. No biggie - just makes it a little difficult to drift off again for that extra bit of morning sleep. I got up.

Starting off, I felt sluggish and a little blank. Not unhappy, just blank. It felt like things were getting less wild and more normal. Jack Johnson didn't even seem all that happy when I listened to a new album I haven't heard. I attribute this general blandness to being dirty and tired on a fairly overcast morning. That's all. Such a contrast is not a bad thing - it's life. I was happier rolling down the road than whatever else I might have been doing at the moment. I was; I asked myself. I had a few chuckles in there too - I wasn't frowning. You get it. Let's move on.

I stopped at a state park about an hour or so after starting to roll. My jacket/pillow and my best shirt are what I'll call perma-damp. They've been strapped to the top of my bags, but haven't improved. I'm a little puzzled. No worries, they enter the laundry que. I established myself at a picnic table, read a book, and decided to cook. I left my propane somewhere. I'm stumped. I also left my book - For Whom The Bell Tolls - in Washington Square park in Manhattan. Presumably because I got over excited by a free sandwich. No propane, no cooking - I laid down on a picnic table bench and somehow zonked out for over an hour. The wind was blowing hard, and the tops of the trees were swaying and the leaves were speaking pretty loudly. I wasn't into this too much, and when a big family showed up speaking at a volume to be unnecessarily overheard, I was ready to pack up and keep rolling.

As I rolled out of the dense canopy, I entered a day much brighter than when it had begun. I spent a long time in Ocean Park, Maine. I ate, wrote, found wifi, paid bills, felt good. Talked to my parents, but didn't have very much info to share. I rolled on into the hottest part of the day. The sun was strong and hot, but the air was cool. The wind was blowing - sometimes it helped, sometimes it slowed me down, sometimes it just blew me around. I'm not crazy about it, but I was still interested in moving.

I found awesome shorts. I rode past some balled up cloth with an adidas logo and turned around. Nice shorts! They have thin flowy fabric - baggy, 100% polyester. They're kinda like a bathing suit. Maybe they are one. They've got mesh pockets. If they're this baggy, they can pass for real shorts. I know they'll dry fast and let air circulate, and not slide down since they're so light. They were a little dirty, but not close to being a deal breaker. Cleaner than what I was wearing. I like'em. A lot. Awesome shorts.

I was filling up my water bottles in South Portland at a water fountain in a big open grassy area beside the bridge to Portland proper. A girl was walking with a long skateboard coming off the pedestrian bridge ramp in my direction. She walked close enough and looked at me, so I said HI. There might have been a pause or not, but she stopped. "Are you on a tour?" Good proper wording. "Yup." Now we talked. She told me about her ride to Cape Brenton in Nova Scotia. I told her my deal. We talked about stoves and how we didn't use them very much. She said that she'd invite me to stay at her place except that her roommate might not be too keen on it. Plus it was a brand new place and a brand new living situation. I let her know how I felt about it: just talking to a person for a minute was more than good. She called her friend Nathan who always lets people stay at his house - maybe I could meet him and get a shower. It seemed possible - so she gave me his number. She was Mira. Totally cool girl. Understands riding bicycles around, being dirty and camping in the woods, and wanting to talk to humans. Serendipety. I crossed the bridge. I had the instinct to keep riding - I'd only gone 45 miles - and riding bicycles is easier than calling strangers. But: be more social - it helps your brain, it helps the tour. I called Nathan. He offered a shower and a place to sleep on a big air mattress. He'd be home at 6:30, so I should call back then. I got a recommendation for a good coffee shop.

I put in some time at the coffee shop, then went out again. The sky looked cloudy and uncertain. The wind was blowing strong. I put on a long sleeve North Face pullover and rode over the hill and checked out the promanade by the water. Clouds or whatever - that was a beautiful sight. Portland is big and has some great views and at least one great-ass coffee shop, if not a dozen. I like it here. I called Nathan at 6:30 and met him at his place. We talked about what each other's deals were, and what we'd been up to. Nathan went to France with a bicycle and no plan. He didn't speak French. He traveled and worked and learned French for six months. The only reason he left was because he got cat scratch fever - just like the Ted Nugent song I've never heard of. We talked and shared some stories and thoughts. I'm all set up for the night in a nice clean apartment. I met some cool people. My batteries are recharged, and I mean that in every positive way possible.

I'm clean as hell. I organized all my gear. I cooked my food on his stove. I'm wearing awesome shorts.

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