I am getting fed up with this weather. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that the weather is getting the best of me…
At my 60 euro chamber last night, my host asked me what time I wanted breakfast, and suggested seven a.m. so I countered with eight. I would have preferred breakfast closer to ten, but it didn’t feel right. This room was simply an upstairs bedroom, like staying at the house of that distant relative you don’t really know that well. It was a comfortable room I will admit, with strong internet, a fridge, a tin full of tea and an electric kettle. Very nice. I spent hours writing the last post, and hours studying French, though it did not help me at breakfast at all. I didn’t sleep well last night either, and I am beginning to wonder what particular source of unrest is keeping me from peacefully recharging in the night, aside from a faulty sleeping pad…
The point is, it rained all day today, and it will rain all day tomorrow. I sit there eating breakfast, trying in vain to speak with this lovely old French couple, which frustrates me and makes me sad, I cannot relate to what they are saying and a blank look or false smile of understanding only works a couple times. It was dry as I ate, but as soon as I hit the road it started to pour. I had to climb back out of town to where I split off yesterday, and realized quickly that I had made the right move, for the road towards Draguignan was a big, steep hill.
I do not feel well, I realize as I inch up this hill. The coffee is not sitting well, that big tub of ice cream I ate might have a part in this as well, though I am loath to place any blame there. I am also in boots, tights, and gloves that were still wet this morning, and I do not feel well rested at all. I am tired, achy, and my lower back starts to pinch- probably because I am rocking in my saddle, not so much to save my legs, but to reduce the drag of wet tights on wet saddle. Tired, a little sick, my feet are wet, my hands are wet, my crotch is wet, and it is raining as I climb a steep little hill, to reiterate.
I patiently wait this out. I get to the top of the hill and look forward to a little coasting, but a headwind hits with a vengeance. Now rain is pelting me in the face, which continues for the next hour. It feels like it has ice in it, but it is only the high velocity with which it is striking my eyeballs and the sensitive skin around them. If anything irritates an animals, it is getting constantly stung in the eyes, and I make liberal use of my large vocabulary as I struggle to see where I am going.
You could say I was a little pissed off when I reached Draguignon. Cold, tired, wet. I have a tension headache from making faces in attempts to protect my eyes. My crotch is chaffing. I get off my bike and walk it through town. It is ten thirty and I am ready to call it.
I find a café and check hotel prices. The cheapest hotel is 65 euros. I look some more. There is a motel type place called “F-1” down the road another 20 kilometers with rooms for 30 euro. Yessir, I will ride another hour to save 35 euro, my budget is hurting! It is almost entirely downhill too, to my great fortune. I load up my soggy self and, channeling the café-long I just drank, blast down to the little town of Roquebrune sur Argens.
I was thinking of my buddy Justin today. He hates rain. This is somewhat ironic, for he was born and raised in Western Oregon and still lives there. He is a monster of a cyclist, a strong and enthusiastic tourist. He and two other friends, Josiah and April, joined me on a tour down the coast of California last summer, and I think of them often. For a cycling enthusiast, or anyone with a penchant for adventure, or travel, or challenge in general really, this is the trip of a lifetime. I know Josiah would love to be here with me, April too. Justin, who would probably be in Croatia by now, would hate this trip so far. At this point I think I feel some gills growing behind my ears; the majority of this trip has been raining or snowing or hailing, with a lot of wind. It’s like I’ve been outside in late Winter early Spring or something…
I am ready for it to end. I want Justin weather: hot, sunglasses and sunscreen, Mediterranean holiday on the beach type days. I pray for those sweltering days when I am praying for these cold rainy ones. I am not just envying the grass on the other side of the fence here, I just feel that I have served my time; I have been wind-burnt and soaked to the skin enough for one year.
As you can see, I gave in to self pity a bit today. I did some more malevolent laughing too, it warms the blood and kindles the fire under my spirit animal- though the mule also seems fatigued- but I am starting to get a little hysterical. It’s not just me though, a couple fellow tourists I am in correspondence with are sheltering from this weather too, but enough griping, I am sheltered today, and I’m gonna spring for another room tomorrow night too, unless by some miracle one of these Warmshowers hosts responds. There is a chain of these motels en route to Nice though, so at least I won’t have to fork over 60 euros again.
In the meantime, I have been methodically abusing this room. This motel is funky, kind of like a hostel, with toilets and showers out in the hall. The bedrooms have a queen mattress with a little loft bed above, a little corner desk, and a sink. The place smells like cigarette smoke and is a little seedy, which is just my type! I barely fit my bike in here, and then exploded my clothes and food. There was no laundromat in Salernes, and there is none here either. This town is one of those “off the main highway” places, that wouldn’t exist otherwise. This is unfortunate for me, because I am out of underwear and I am the possessor of a growing collection of stinky, wet socks. I had to keep the window open for a while to disperse the combined odor of my boots, my gloves, three pairs of wet socks, my wet midlayer and raincoat, and my wet, dirty tights. Yeah, imagine. I need a dryer, at least. My towel also needs a wash, and my gloves in particular smell so bad I had to wash my hands first thing, for they were the stinkiest part of me, even with the stiff competition! (This is because I had to wear them even on warm days while my hands were healing from those strange welts).
I know, a bit gross, but thus is the nature of the vagabond. That’s not the worst part though- out of desperation, I resorted to hand washing my undergarments in the sink with some soap I filched from the Ibis Budget hotel in Narbonne. My fancy underpants are, however, designed to be handwashed, they are made for travel. They washed well, though I wouldn’t wish the task on anyone and it felt like an abuse of the sink. Gotta make stuff happen sometimes. Here are some pictures of the mayhem:
Yeah, you see that pile by the sink? Uh-huh. This is the life.
I rolled in about one o’clock, walked to the store, came back and had a shower, then lounged. I watched some music videos, copied down some lyrics (most of the songs I sing have to do with rain, imagine that), looked at old pictures. I will admit to reminiscing and reflecting on my life by looking at the past. Ever since I quit my job in Corvallis, Oregon and moved out of my apartment in 2014, life has been an adventure. That was about four years ago. It was pretty crazy before that too, when I lived in Texas! A lot of good pictures, a lot of good memories. I never think of myself as particularly interesting, certainly not “cool,” and before this, I wouldn’t even say I was adventurous, but the pictures I have are all of some crazy dude in funky clothes doing different, interesting stuff in a bunch of different places! It was nice to look back on the whirlwind that my life has been these last few years, though it doesn’t always seem like it at the time. That is something to work on, to be in the moment, to appreciate what is happening.
I am occasionally struck by how crazy this trip is- something else, that’s for sure! At times the boldness of it asserts itself. Of course, I always compare myself to psychos, the craziest of the crazy. I feel pretty mild compared to intense mountain climbers and extreme sports folks. I know or am familiar with numerous other people doing the same thing, or bigger. I forget that when I turn around and look, I’m higher up than I thought… there’s always someone who goes does more though. It’s like when I go to the doctor and they always ask, based on my heart rate, if I am “an athlete.” No, I always say. Olympeans are athletes. Football and soccer-players and triathloners are athletes. Me, I am just working and like to hike, bike and climb a small mountain every few years. I don’t consider myself a cyclist either, though I probably qualify as some sort of “extreme” something or other right now, just like anyone hiking the whole Pacific Crest Trail would be. Extremity is relative though, there are no doubt bums who live their whole life this way.
One ought not be defined by an activity, unless it is the center of your whole life, as it must be if your goal in life is a gold medal, a singular greatness in one area, to be the biggest fish in the biggest pond. All else is sacrificed before it. This is not my inclination. Thus, cycling is not my life, nor drumming (I “am” a drummer), nor farming or roofing or writing or whatever. Sure, you do become entwined with what you do, after enough time and energy is put into it, but it need not pervade your idea of yourself. I do not do things to tack on titles or laud my “accomplishments,” or even to gain experience… I don’t feel like I can take that much credit, I cannot claim that much control (Some things I wish I could take credit for, and others I wish weren’t my own fault).
I am simply being me, following my nature, my heart, the whisper of my soul, because I have to. I hear the call, and I answer it as best I can. I am doing what I must, in order for my being to fulfill itself. I am not making decisions, so much as identifying influences and figuring out how to allow the pulse to course through me freely. Egotism is such a poisonous concept because it blankets what this is; people create art and music, they spend their time on lonely mountains or in the emptiness of the desert, they develop and challenge their bodies in numerous and peculiar ways, they read and write books, make films, they act, they live, they do- all for a reason.
We are all pre-wound, and we run while there is tension in the spring. This energy is constantly released, we are alive, we act, we express it, whether we want to or not; it is us. Don’t get bogged down with the notion of “free will” either, this is only an illusory human construct, a wiseacring Western misrepresentation of the force that is us. We are parts of a whole, and feel simultaneously that we have a modicum of governance and that we are simply doing our best to wrangle a powerful flow of latent energies.
It is not what people do that interests me, but why they do it, whether they know why, and if not, whether they are trying to find out, how this process proceeds in their being. There is your proof against “free will,” how many people consciously know why they do what they do? There is the action, the activity, there is the way it works, the how, the science behind it, but without the why, nothing else really matters, now does it? I can say that if “free will” existed in reality, some would have more of it than others. Are you living life automatically, a slave to the whims of the energies coursing through you? Or are you actively listening, participating with your own consciousness, your life-energy, your “wound spring?” All I can say for myself is that I am here, in a stinky, seedy motel room in France, for a reason. What it is I won’t say- I am not sure if I can- but that whisper from my soul is less insistent, softer, and I know by this that I am listening better, heading in the right direction- it feels right.
I wasn’t expecting that to come out. Things are catalyzing within me, this is certain. Along with plumbing the depths of my soul, I have also been studying French heavily. I really love languages, and I want French under my belt… and also Russian, German, Japanese, Georgian. Already I see myself spending much more time abroad- the world is a big place, and I haven’t seen the half of it.
Pluvious days are pensive ones. I am thankful for the rest, and the opportunity to be still and face myself, to allow the thoughts that I have been outriding to catch up and drive me deeper into the folds of my self, the world. I keep my days strange like this: something in my essence requires it, and this is reason enough.