March 21, 2010

The West family.... the best, but Shane won't let me rest! I got on the road out of Chicot around noontime on Monday. I needed to go about 15 miles to Pine Prairie, LA to get some things at the post office. Spenco gloves sent me a new pair of gloves, and Keen shoes sent me a new pair of cycling sandals. It was a hilly ride and I got into town before 3. I swung by the post office and only the gloves had arrived. I went by city hall to find out about camping, and as they checked into it, I talked to Mona and Allison about my trip. They were pretty amazed at how I have chosen to live these past 6 months. They contacted a church that had a nice-sized lot that I could camp at.

I made my way over to the church and found the lot. When I pulled up I decided not to set up the tent first thing. Instead I strung up the hammock between two polls and relaxed with a book. Not much later a white Kia pulled up, and a guy and his daughter walked my way. He asked if I'm on some kind of journey, and I told him yep. He told me that about 5 years back, he and his son Dayne had walked 500 miles in Spain for 30 straight days. He asked if I was planning on sleeping there in the lot. When I told him yes, he pointed across the street and said he had a shed with a bed in his backyard that we could stay in. I said sure, thinking how much earlier I could get on the road if I didn't have to wait for the tent to dry out, and have to pack up all that stuff. I walked over to the house so he could show me the setup before he had to go and coach the baseball team. He showed me the shed and called his wife Nanci outside to meet me. She wasn't surprised that her husband had brought home a man on the road. I gave her my card so she could read about who we were. Shane and his daughter Maddie went to the baseball game and Coop and I got settled in.

A little while later, Nanci, her oldest daughter Branigan, and grandson Parker, came out to the shed with some coffee and an invitation to take a shower and do some laundry. I needed to do laundry, so I gathered up my smelly clothes and headed in. After I got the clothes working, I sat with the two ladies and the energetic lad and talked some more about being on the road. Branigan had to go to work, so Nanci and I chatted about this and that. She is a real sweet lady, very easy to talk to, and she made me feel welcome in her home. After Shane got home from the baseball game, Nanci went out to get food for dinner. Shane and I sat around and he told me of the trip he and his son went on to Spain. It sounded like a great experience for both, especially Dayne. Being only 14 at the time must have been an eye-opening experience for him. Nanci got back with food and beer, and started in on making dinner. While she was cooking up some tasty eats, Shane ran me over to his friend Wesley's house. Wes had also taken his son on the Spanish trip with Shane and Dayne, so he got down on what it was that I was getting into.

After the chat we headed back to the house. Nanci had made some stuffed Cornish hens, which in turn made me stuffed! We sat around the fire and I talked to the kids, family, and all the people that stopped by to see the bearded stranger who was in their town till about midnight. Pine Prairie only has about 1,000 people, so it got around pretty quick that I was there. This was the first family I have stayed with whose youngest child is 16, so they understood more of what I was talking about, which is not living the "status quo" life, but stepping outside and really getting into it all. To really live in it and not just pass through.

When I say "in it" I mean life, not the thing I was doing back in NYC—grinding it out, living paycheck to paycheck, if I was lucky. I was depressed, drunk, high, and just mean and bitter. Getting my kicks at being a dick. I knew then that it wasn't how I was supposed to be. It was when I was talking with my good friend Pierre that I realized I needed to let go of all the everyday stress that we let ourselves live just because that is what mainstream society is pushing into the mushed-out, media-drowned brains that we have forgotten how to use. I guess I can't bitch about it if I am asking you to sit in front of your computer and read my rants and recaps of my big adventure, but I honestly wouldn't be pissed if some of you stopped reading my blog because I got to you. Because I got you out to go live "in it." To see something new and unknown everyday. To see what this country of ours is made of—it's a combination of everything. It's the people and what role they play on the ebb and flow of our society. You see what mankind is doing to help and destroy this land and the entire earth. I have met all sorts of people: cabinetmakers, jewelers, army soldiers, photographers, bartenders, accountants, surfers, bums, drunks, dopeheads, cops, crooks, and politicians, and I have only done a quarter of this country. As for nature, I have seen the most beautiful and inspiring sights. I have been in some of the craziest weather in history, seen things that I can't capture on film, nor would I want to, because it wouldn't be just, and because some things I am keeping for myself on this trip.

Karma is an amazing thing. This is true, and it took a few weeks for me to put that all together. I was guarded at first, and still had worries and fears. But once I let go and stayed positive, things have been great. I let go of the worries that money can bring. And to be honest, that's really all I need right now to survive. Everything that I carry I can survive this trip with, but its the money that feeds us. And sometimes we don't have money, but we still manage to eat without ever asking for it. That's Karma. Positive thoughts bring positive results. Pierre has amazing Karma. He can think about grabbing the perfect hitch. Oh, Pierre is somewhat of a leather tramp so he thumbs for rides sometimes. So he'll think about the perfect hitch, and within minutes it pulls up. That guy is made for living in it.

So I told Dayne, Maddie, and a couple of their friends to thank their dad and mom for letting them experience life the way they have, and to keep on getting out there and seeing it all. Before we turned in, Shane and Nanci asked if I wouldn't mind staying one more night. Shane and his family wanted to hear more about our adventure and to get to know us. I was honored. I went to bed happy, exhausted, drunk, and glad that I stuck to my feelings of not setting up the tent in the lot across the street.

The next morning Shane got me up and ran me around. First we stopped by the post office to see if my shoes had arrived, but they hadn't. Then we went over to the high school. It was spring sports team photo day. Shane is an adaptive PE teacher at three different schools in the area. He's an assistant baseball coach, and also coaches the golf team for Pine Prairie High School. After that we went to one of the other schools so he could check up on something. As we made our way there, Shane filled me in on the Cajun history of that area. Mamou, LA is the Cajun music capital. So he spent the day turning the radio dial to all the local stations to fill my ears with this one-of-a-kind sound. One thing I forgot to say about Shane is that he is a musician. He has a rough speaking voice from all the years of talking so much and yelling at his sports kids, but when he picks up his guitar and sings a song, it's something special. I can see that he would be a fun and entertaining act to witness.

He drove me around all the small Cajun towns and pointed out places. One of them was Fred's Lounge, which has been around for 50-plus years, but now they are only open from 8 a.m. till about 2 p.m. on Saturdays. They pack it full, sell a lot of booze, and play some great music. I wish I could haver experienced that. We drove by where Nanci teaches Pre-K and then went and got some boudin for lunch. This is a sausage made of rice and whatever else—mostly pork—encased in pork intestine. Boudin is rapidly becoming a known food item around the world from this region, just like jambalaya, gumbo, and dirty rice. It's really good with some Louisiana hot sauce, cheese Doritos, and a Dr. Pepper! After that, Shane ran me back because he had some students he had to check on that afternoon.

When we got back I tried to lay down and nap, but Coop wasn't having it; he wanted to play and mess around. We were in the shed with the door open. Dayne had parked his truck close to the shed the night before, and was making his way out to move it. I didn't hear him, but Coop did, and he set off after him. He chased Dayne around the truck, and Dayne had to jump over the side and dive into the bed to avoid getting a chunk bitten out of his ass. I went out to settle Coop down and laugh at Dayne. I told him if he wouldn't have been sneaking around like a little ninja, Coop wouldn't have taken off after him. Coop was just protecting us and our stuff. What a good boy.

Later that night we went to the high school baseball game. I stood in the dugout with the boys and snapped some pics. After the hometown got defeated, we headed back to get some food and then head back out. Shane was determined to find some local live music. I wasn't too worried about it, and thought it would be hard on a Tuesday, which was the day before St. Patrick's. But he insisted. I was moving slow that day because the week before had consisted of a lot of hilly and windy days, so my legs and feet where hurting. Nanci noticed and asked if I was okay, and I assured her I was fine. It's just that when I stop for a day or two it catches up to my legs, and it's hard to walk. She was concerned and voiced this to Shane, but he insisted I was fine and we were going. I agreed, knowing the night wouldn't be anything I couldn't handle.

We drove around and didn't find a thing. I was thinking we could call it a night, when Shane pulled into a driveway I didn't recognize. We got out of the car and walked up to the back of the house to the sound of some blaring country music. Here was Darell, a native with a Cajun accent, who works on an oil platform—two weeks on, two weeks off. He was outside enjoying the night air, the sounds of his favorite songs, and a couple of cold beers. Shane introduced us and told him what I was doing. Upon hearing this he ran inside and told his wife, who was sick with a cold, to come out and meet me. She came out and sat and listened to my tail. After the hour or so of conversation, she asked if I would like to stop by in the morning before I left and have some breakfast with them. I said sure, and Shane said he would drive! We headed home, then Shane and I talked some more and finally went to bed.

The next morning, Nanci woke me up before heading out the door for work. She handed me a cup of coffee, way too much money, and gave me a big hug. She thanked me for staying, and I said they deserved all the thanks. When she left I set down the mug of coffee and smashed my face into the pillow, trying to regain the dream I was having. Not too long after, Shane came busting in telling me we needed to go eat. I rubbed my eyes and threw on my shoes, and we headed over. Katie had done it up: eggs, sausage, biscuits, and gravy. I chowed down and they asked more questions that they had thought of since our first meeting. They decided to stop by to see everything in real life.

When we got back to the house it was nearing noon, and I hadn't even gotten close to packing this thing up. Remember, I don't ask for anything, but I really needed some actual rest. So I may have hinted and steered the conversation with Shane into him offering up one more night. But I did offer to cook dinner for them, and he burst out: "RIBS!" He took off to work and I went back to sleep. I gave Nanci the shopping list, and waited for her to come home so I could get this meal going. Now pretty much everyone knew I was in town, so that evening, relatives, friends young and old, and everyone else stopped by to say hello or give us some gear or money. Dinner was good. I made ribs with my variation of BBQ sauce, a roasted spicy sweet potato mash, sauteed mushrooms with bacon, and roasted mixed vegetables. No one in the family—with the exception of Dayne—likes sweet potato, but they all loved my mash. Afterward we all sat around the fire and talked for just a while. Then we turned in early, and I passed out before my head hit the pillow.

The next morning, Nanci didn't wake me, but I got up and knew I had to get moving. I packed it all up and said my goodbyes to Dayne and Shane. Shane mentioned meeting up with me on Friday or Saturday to camp out one night. I was happy to hear it. We got on the road and made our way to Oakdale. It was about 20 miles or so, and we made good time even with the hills. As we got west of the small town, we went over a good-sized creek bridge. As we crossed it I noticed that there were some old stone picnic tables set up below, over by the water. I decided this was going to be the spot for the night. I had stopped in Oakdale and picked up some screens to make Cooper a sun shade. So with the space and a nice spot to work, I made a pretty useless thing. That night I made a nice fire and cooked up some tasty grub.

The next day I got back to it. It was a hot and windy day, and this giant bonnet I had made for Cooper was catching some big winds. But it was keeping the sun off him and keeping him cool. As I made my way west that afternoon I needed some water. It is few and far between the towns around here. I had stopped in Elizabeth, LA at the Pit Stop to get a quick snack, and they hooked me up with some free boudin—fried and steamed—and one of their T-shirts. I should have got water there like I had planned to, but when I came out to the ride there was already a crowd, and I ended up talking for an hour.

I got back to it without that much water. So when I saw some people in a truck outside of a trailer, I stopped to see about their taps. He said sure, and took me inside to fill up. Chris and I talked as the water bags filled. and I asked what was around for camping. He told me about a church with a lot of land not too far down the road. Said it shouldn't be a problem at all. So we made our way and followed the signs for the church, and he was right: the land here was plentiful. I went to the church and found the maintenance guy. I told him what the deal was, and asked if it would be a problem to sleep on the land. He said no, go right ahead.

I made my way back to the trees and turned on my phone. I got a text from Shane saying he wanted to meet up. I called him back and he asked where I was. I told him and he said he would be on his way. He was bringing some frozen gumbo, and told me to cook up some rice to go with it. I gave him directions and got to setting up camp. I situated the tent side by side with the ride, and put the tarp up between them to block the wind from blowing the fire around. Then I gathered up wood for the entire night of cooking and beer drinking. I made rice and waited for my friend's arrival. He called to let me know he was on his way, and at the same time a truck pulled up and a couple of guys walked my way. I got off the phone and started talking to the guys who seemed curious and harmless toward what I was doing. After a couple minutes of Q&A they told me I couldn't camp there. They were really sorry, but the church was having some mother-daughter thing there and the moms were freaking out about me being on the grounds. So I had to move on. Real Christlike people. They told me I could go back a couple of bridges and camp out under the second one. Fun. I packed it up real quick. I still had plenty of light left to break down, move, and set back up if I hurried. As I was heading toward the main road, Shane drove up. I quickly told him what happened and what the plan was. He followed me to the super great spot and we worked our way back from the bridge, trying to get secluded. No chance that was happening. We were only 20 yards or so from the road, with a row of trees hiding us. We got set up, made some great gumbo, and drank and talked a lot.

The next morning we slowly packed it up as we talked some more. Shane is a good guy. He has a ton of energy and is nonstop gogogogogo. I had a blast with him and his family; they all fit together nicely. I wish I would have gotten a family photo of them as I had planned, but the time just flew by. As we said our goodbyes and gave a good hug, he got back into his Kia and made his way out. And got STUCK!!! HAHHAHAAAHHAA!! Silly Kia. He started trying to get out slinging mud everywhere and digging himself in deeper. I called Nanci and had her call Dayne to call me back because Shane's phone had died! He went to the road and ran down to the houses to see if anyone was able to pull him out. While I was on the phone with Dayne, a truck drove by and saw Shane waving and he honked. He kept on moving. Shane came over and we prepared to wait for Dayne, when all the sudden here comes that truck again. It pulled down to where we were. It was Chris, the guy I had gotten water from the day before. He drove by, saw that we were stuck, went home, got a tow strap, and returned to save the day. They hooked them up and got to towing. Mud was flying everywhere, engines were screaming to the redline. It was a great way to start the morning. Once everything was in the clear we said our thank-yous and goodbyes, and got to getting on. I needed to get to a campground or some sort of shelter because another storm and cold front was moving in. I made it to DeRidder and found an RV park and campground right away. I paid the man $10 and set up the tent, ate, took a shower, and climbed into the tent just as the rain started to fall. I dozed on and off that afternoon, evening, and night.

The next day it was cold and windy. The high was only 37. So I paid another $10 to stay. This had better be it for the cold weather. I am getting sick and tired of being cold in the tent. I want to send some of my cold weather gear back to NYC so I'm not lugging it about. I really need to drop some weight on this thing. So I spent a majority of my time in the tent. Luckily the guy next door, Stewart, let me use his extension cord so I was able to run power to the tent and get on the computer. Every campground has Wi-Fi. The gentleman on the other side of me invited me in for coffee and chicken. We talked for over an hour and I ate about six pieces of chicken. Thanks.

So here I am Monday morning, sitting in the tent and finishing this up. I plan on pushing hard for the next two weeks to get to Austin. I hope to stay there for a week if I can find the spot. I will be going to the REI store and exchanging some things that have gotten worn down, and getting some other stuff I am going to need for the desert. I'm excited for the heat, the stars, the loneliness, and the quiet. Cooper's breath is horrible. He's having a yawning fit right now and blowing it right in my face. I was talking to a very good friend of mine in NYC last night and she thinks this trip is going to take me at least 18 months. Wow, that's a lot of pedaling. We'll see. That's all for now. We'll be sleeping in TX tonight.

Till next time,
Love and Licks,
Sean and Coop


Sean said...

You got to meet some life long friends and now that you talk of it I miss the starry nights of the open west.What you are doing is about to be illegal you din't maintain health insurance. I am more a libertarian and have to side with our governor Bobby Jindall when he said the way the new law is written is unconstitutional. See you can ride a bike across the country and not have car insurance but eventually you will have to maintain health coverage. What is totally retarede is had you remained in NYC you would have had greater chance for health issues. A provision should allow for a trip like this one that would drastically alter ones health the benefit you are doing for your heart is unmeasurable. Enjoyed your rant and what you are saying is true I have issue with folks that feel you have to do things the master slave way I thought all men were created equal if this were true then why do some get inheritance wile others get tired. It is bass ackwards work first then retire why can't they see that some have to do a little retirement in the middle first then work. Work should be a joy when it is not then you really should revamp your life. Some have invested heavily in an education for a vocation they found out they hate only too late. What to do honestly what do you do. Many reach your level of stratification and realize they are not ready to go into the next layer so easily nope you are going to have a differnt history lesson to tell from your rocking chair. Just remember this the thing that kills more Americans than anything is heart disease a lot of that disease is a direct result of them having it broken so many times setteling for this compromise that till they never lived life it lived them. Live life. Thanks for the post we were not to be slaves sometimes you have to shuffle the deck and see if better cards can be dealt next game.

Vickey said...

We met you on your way to Lake Stubblefield outside of Montgomery, Texas. We were in a dark blue minivan with a wheelchair on the back. I wish we had stopped to talk more now that I've read your website. My husband had at stroke at age 49 and is paralyzed on the left side. We had taken my son to a Tae Kwon Do tournament and just decided to spend the day driving around the Lake Conroe. It made us all feel good to see you. Are you going to write a book about your journey? We're in the pay-check-to-paycheck grind that you were in. What courage you have! Be encouraged by knowing that I am a sincere Christian and will pray for you. Has God revealed himself to you as you've journeyed? -- Vickey B.

Stacy said...

Isn't dog breath grand??? ;o)

I love reading about your journeys and YES, you must write a book when you are done! :O)

I hope to send you a package soon. I'm planning on sending you an Ollie's All-Stars t-shirt. Will a large be about the right size? If I get it packaged up in the next couple of days, where should I mail it to?

Take care!