In the middle of the night I was attacked by a pack of dogs.
At least that’s what I thought when I was awoken in the dead of night to some howling and scratching. I turned on my flashlight and got my glasses out from the tent pocket above my head. There were an unknown number of creatures messing with my tent while some other creatures were making noises over by my bike. It was pretty cold and I didn’t feel like getting out of my sleeping bag to check out what was going on, so I jumped into some road-rage style yelling to scare them off, then went back to sleep. They came back a couple times but every time I would fiercely yell, more out of annoyance than anything.
I woke up and got out of my tent to find everything mostly in its place, my food bag and a sugary drink had been messed with a little bit, but everything else was fine.
I didn’t realize it the night before but I was right next to a pond. I sat in the dirt for a while, eating some tortillas with peanut butter.
I had some time to reflect on the night before. I remembered the first time I went camping by myself in New Hampshire about a year prior. I was doing a hike in the Presidential mountain range, and stayed at a National Parks campsite where about half of the campsites were occupied with other people. When the sun went down and I got into my tent to go to sleep, I found I couldn’t sleep at all. My mind was racing with the acute awareness that the thin walls of my tent offered no protection from an animal or some murderer that wanted to kill me. I couldn’t sleep the whole night. There were visions of packs of coyotes slashing through my tent and tearing me to pieces playing over and over in my head, keeping me wide awake and fully wired. For the first time I was really aware of just how vulnerable a person is. We are delicate bags of flesh without the protections of civilization keeping the horrors of nature at bay. I was deeply in touch with how our walls and our asphalt dominance over the earth were shielding us from the unmitigated chaos of the forest, and I laid in fear the whole night.
I contrasted this with my experience last night. I realized that at no point was I really scared. The most I felt was annoyance that I had to deal with some animals. I knew in the worst case scenario I would probably have to fight a dog, and I had more than enough experience dealing with dogs at this point. I would start to hear some dogs and then yell at them, then go back to sleep peacefully. I could trust my brain to wake me up if there was a threat, and I knew whatever it was I could deal with it. I was yelling at the dogs almost as if they were stupid for bothering me and they should be ashamed.
This was one of the main reasons for taking this trip for me. I wanted to know what I was really capable of and be able to take on challenges without fear. It was nice to realize I had grown a little bit.
It was Sunday, so I listened to a live sermon from a Unitarian church in Frederick, Maryland while I packed up camp. I’m not affiliated with the church in any way, I just find the pastor’s sermons interesting sometimes, they deal with present issues intelligently and in a way that the sermons in my Catholic church growing up never did. I don’t think I realized the connection at the time, but the first time I had heard a sermon from this church was by accident on the way back from that same New Hampshire hiking trip.
I took off riding, more desert. I have mentioned this before but you are getting only the highlights on this blog. Most of this trip is endless pedaling through vast landscapes of nothingness. I mean, really put yourself in my shoes and look at this picture.
I’m on a bike on the side of the road with barely any shoulder to ride on wondering if I’m going to have enough water to last me until my destination. I’m not trying to convey a sense of anxiety, more like a sense of simplicity. It sometimes verged on, but never quite reached boredom. Just look at how much road is ahead of me knowing that the only way I have to move through it is by pedaling. It makes it easy to decide what to do next, there is only one choice, keep pedaling until I reach something. The slow crawl of my meager advance hangs above me, but it is progress nonetheless.
I reached Glamis, probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen. It’s real Aladdin-style desert, nothing at all but sand dunes. I was surprised when after an hour of riding I came over a hill and saw hundreds and hundreds of people with their dune buggies and rvs camped out in the middle of nowhere. Apparently this is a big spot to come off-roading.
A few cop cars looked out at the top of a dune while people raced, climbed the dunes, and did donuts in the sand. Looked like fun, but my vehicle isn’t really built for the sand. I kept riding.
I foolishly didn’t fill up my water in Glamis, and nearly ran out before I made it to Brawley. I had to resort to drinking the emergency camelbak full of stale old water that I had kept in my frame bag for probably hundreds if not a thousand miles at this point.
Still, I made it to Brawley, a really cool border town. I got to sleep in a motel for the first time in what felt like a really long time, and got some awesome carne asada fries and a much-needed smoothie from a little place nearby.
I did some laundry in the sink, showered up, and passed out.