There is a sail far off on the distant horizon. By the color change in the water I can tell how far offshore that sail is and by the size and shape of the sails I can tell that it is a big boat, probably more than a little over sixty feet and swift and sure and headed south off the East Coast of Florida on a gloriously chilled November day. The fact that it is that far offshore for this time of year is indication enough of the size of the vessel and the proclivities of the captain.
But what of that?
But what of that?
Am I not the captain myself of this here little old Schwinn Super Le Tour? A Black Pearl of a bicycle and together this day we have slain city buses, scorched miles of bike trail and conquered big bridges! Together this day we have covered many miles, swift and sure our ownselves, surviving catastrophic bus rides, surly drivers, rehab bound vagrants and a wind from the North that has grown incrementally stronger as the morning passes.
We Put In For Supplies
I am sitting at that Little Market by the Sea that is almost fifty miles from the Whispering Pines Trailer Park and I am glad to be here. I am doing my best to sip this big can of Heineken slowly and take a proper break that does not involve hurtling down the highway at the speed of dangerous. But my old nemesis Aeolus is here today, apparently hung over (and angry about it) and he cannot seem to leave me alone.
I have many times trekked to this little market and in many different situations over the last thirty years. It is an absolutely unsexy spot but it is sexy enough, in its own Florida fashion. I love this place and would be buried here if not for foolish ordinances about putting graves in front of convenience stores. No mausoleums here: just bait and beer and concrete tables and the Atlantic Ocean. Not bad companions, really, all things considered.
Little Miss Dangerous looks pretty sexy herself, leaning against the turquoise wall of the shuttered ice cream shop next to the market. Something is not quite right with the shifting. On the ten mile sprint into the wind after the last bus ride she started ghost shifting, or chain skipping, or some technical term I don't know. She wants to shift under stress but somehow she always shifts to the gear I would have chosen anyway so it is a pleasant problem. I was careful placing her in the rack on the front of the bus, but another passenger, a big guy who looked like Grizzly Adams, had put his Mountain Man bicycle on the rack at the stop after I got on so...well, I ain't sayin' he bent my derailleur and it doesn't look bent but those Mountain Men can be pretty rough.
The Wind Works For ME
I drain my beer and set the empty can, snug in its little brown bag, on the concrete table top. Aeolus promptly knocks it off with an impolite gust. I am not impressed.
“Not today, Pal. That bus kicked your ass and I didn't do bad myself. So you just save your breath for the ride home. I'm counting on a nice little sleigh ride out of you, and no back talk, unless you are talking behind my back and pushing at the same time. Got it?”
He snaps the flag flying on the pole in front of the store with a challenging CRACK! But I remain aloof to his bullying; today I used the bus and was writing and looking at schedules and bouncing around like a jack in the box while trying to think up ways to sneak beer onto the bus while the Wind and the Behemoth fought it out without my help. I bend down and pick up the empty can, toss it into the trash and go back into the store.
A Port I Never Visited
There's a lot of traffic on this old seaside highway and I wonder why. The sun is out and doing a good job and it is a beautiful day for a drive; but these people seem to be going somewhere. But where? Then I am reminded that quite a while back some giant corporation built an entire city just a few miles north of here. Probably Walmart. A planned community for thousands of people that unsurprisingly did not work out the way they planned. Many of my carpenter buddies worked on this project, commuting an hour each way. The pay was good enough and they were glad to have the work. For them it was better than traveling the Gulf Coast States with me, living in cheap motels and working fifteen hour days far from home. I lost a lot of crew to that pseudo-city and never have I liked it since.
This second beer is pretty tasty and I am wondering, should I pedal on up there and have a look around? I have never actually been there...these honey roasted peanuts sure taste good with this Heineken-In-A-Bag...
The wind is staying strong out of the North. I have to keep a hand on the half-empty, no, half-full... wait...I have to hang onto what is left of my beer as Aeolus, ever rude, attempts to snatch it away. It is about 75 degrees Fahrenheit and the Sun is a sultry friend as I sit here across from the good ol' Atlantic Ocean in November in Florida. Right now there is no place I would rather be and man, ya gotta grab these moments while ya can. What a day! And not quite half over!
Inventory of Ship's Stores
I bought a quart of “Smart Water” on the way here and it is in my Goodwill messenger bag along with a little Topeak pump (thanks KAZ!) and two bananas, one last bag of peanuts and some kind of Power Bars for which I paid way too much money. There was a boiled egg in there earlier that I tossed in at the last minute, thinking “Hey, it comes in its own protective wrapper!” That didn't work out so good but I ate the remains anyway.
Prepare To Cast Off
I am at peace with my place in time and space and I have a fifty mile ride home, with a strong tailwind all the way. The sailboat is gone, heading on south and it would be a good idea for me to do the same. I throw away my scraps like a good little beer drinkin' Boy Scout. I sling my Goodwill messenger bag (that I feel naked without) over my right shoulder and I pull on my gloves. I am beer fueled and strong, peanut fed and linty-egg reinforced. Through craft and the luck of the season, the wind is in my favor and as I climb onto the saddle of Little Miss Dangerous, I take a last look around. This place is far enough from home that I don't get here very often. It is a place of rarity and that makes it special, also.
I point her south on the freshly paved shoulder, hit the first three pedal strokes standing up and just like that, The Trailer Park Cyclist is in flight. The Atlantic Ocean is on my left hand and always will be and Good Ol' Florida is here on my right. I am at home, in every sense of the word, and I am soaring into the ever unknowable future, happy for a day like this one, once in a while; the future will be what it will be but today, right now, the Ol' TPC is in flight and happy and that is how it should be.
Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Travel Guide