After Ten Hours Of Sickness And Forty Miles Of Hellish Biking I Closed My Eyes

P1010225Back in 1981, my painting of the above picture helped me get over my father’s recent death. In my transferring of a black and white photograph to painted canvas it became clear to me that mortality was/is awash in old age and death. Life/death equals sisters, brothers, moms, dads, and mourners. From that mix of sadness, love, beauty, and creativity, (love creates art) my painted Indian was born. I never met him, (it was a very old photograph), but I am deeply beholden to him. Because of him I have a deeper appreciation for what it means to live. I may even have glimpsed, if only for a moment, “love eternal.” Even though what I have just described took place in 1981, I know that my Indian brother (invisible thought he must have been) was there, on my first day in Québec, helping me get past my pain and suffering on the 2nd of July, 1977.

Take care,

dave

I’m Glad I’m Done With Being Young And Restless—Right Buddha Right

New Brunswick Quebec Boarder

June 29, ‘77

Hi there journal, another day—another dollar, or something like that. Well, last night, after sunset, some friendly people came over and offered me an apple, an orange, and we shared the cheese they brought with them. The boys from the swimming hole also stopped by. They brought beer with them. They were a little young to be drinking (early teens), but boys will be boys. After the beer was gone (I helped in that department), they wanted me to go with them to get more. Instead, I told them I had a long ride ahead of me tomorrow. I wished them well, and turned in for the night. In the morning, even before the sun, two of the boys returned. They were staggering drunk, but still very friendly. I noticed that their car door was smashed in, but when I mentioned it to them they just shrugged it off. After a few moments of shared comradery, the boys passed out on their respective picnic tables. I went back to sleep, too.

When I woke up, the boys were gone. “The young and restless,” I was sure glad I didn’t have to go through that one again (right Buddha, right?). They were probably encouraged to leave by the mist that was falling in their faces. When I got on my bicycle to leave, the real rain hadn’t yet begun, but it looked as if I was in for a wet, dreary day.

Back on the highway, biking wasn’t bad. I had a strong wind at my back, and the traffic was sparse. I need to thank Lady Luck for looking after me. Actually, she, the Lady, seemed to enter my life just after Richard and I split up. I think during the time Richard and I were together, his “easy come, easy go attitude” rubbed off a little on me. (I must remember to thank him for that when I get home.) Until I met Richard I had always worried about not being able to find a campsite, but not anymore. And this evening, in that regard, I found myself blessed!

Around 4 p.m. I knew I was in for a wet night. The sky said so, and the weatherman told me so. I decided to check into a youth hostel that the gas station attendant told me about. “Up in Edmondson, it’s in the oldest house in town. You can’t miss it,” he said. He was right. I didn’t miss it, but when I got there nobody was home. I decided to keep biking. On the outskirts of town I came to a subdivision where new houses were going up. A couple of unfinished houses looked like possible shelters, but they also looked like possible hassles, so I just kept pedaling toward the very dark horizon.

It was getting close to “bombs away” when I arrived at a park. However, I found Mr. Ranger standing there with his hand out. He said,“$4.50 please,” and I said back, “I just can’t afford that. Maybe I’ll find something further on down the road.” “Okay, suit yourself,” he responded, “but it sure looks like rain!” And I said, “I know, Mr. Ranger, I know.”

Back on the highway, it started to rain. At the same time, along side the road, the forest had thickened. Putting up a tent became impossible. There was just no room. I began to mentally prepare for the worst when suddenly I saw a break in the trees. It was an abandoned picnic area. Picker bushes had grown up alongside the rotting picnic tables, but behind the tables was a dilapidated building with a partial roof. Just as I reached the building, it started to pour. I found myself a dry corner and prepared for a long night.

I can’t begin to express how lucky I feel right now! Apparently, a long time ago, this park was used as the “Welcome to New Brunswick Park” for people coming in from Quebec. Whoever’s responsible, thank-you!

My First Day In Quebec

July 2, ‘77

My stomach sounds like a cement mixer. Why do I feel like puking? Roll over; forget about
it. It’s still raining, and it’s in the middle of the night. Jesus, do I stink.
4:30 a.m. and I can’t wait any longer, I’ve got to take a shit. Whewww do I feel nauseous. My book for toilet paper, and out into the rain I go. I hope I make it to the outhouse in time. I hope it’s an outhouse! God do I feel rotten.

Two hours later: I’ve lost everything, including my strength. Diarrhea, weak, sick…bicycling seems an eternity away. The sun is on the rise, but do I, or don’t I? Boy do I feel shitty, but I’ll try to ride anyway. Great, just what I needed, an uphill grind—what luck! If I think pine trees, grass, flowers—my nausea goes away, but as soon as a semi thunders by, the smell makes me want to puke. This damn hill is coming to an end. My strength is gone. I can’t continue, got to rest. I pull my bike over into the power line clearing, lean over my seat and throw up. If I don’t lie down I will pass out. Clumsily I throw my sleeping bag on the ground, and fall face down on top of it. God that feels good, but I’m very sick.

Two hours later: It’s cold; no more sun. Rubbery legs and knotted stomach, I’d better get going. Who am I kidding? I can’t ride a bicycle. I still feel like puking. Every muscle in my body aches. What to do? Hitchhike, I’ll hitchhike out of here, I will. Cringing at the side of the road, head snapping wind, and eating dirt from the train of semis’ backwash, anything would be better. I mount up and ride–down the hill. I hoped for a town, a store, a stream, anything that would make me feel less rotten, but at the bottom all I found was another hill.

Two more hills and I was a zombie. I did pass a restaurant, though, and I went inside. I asked for bromo, or anything else for my stomach. I didn’t dare stay for coffee. I didn’t want to throw up on the counter. I left empty handed. Push the foot down, strain the stomach, feel the head rush of blood. Repeat, repeat, repeat, soon even the monotony of the climb was gone. My mind would not react. I lost my senses in a thick fog of numbness. I don’t know how, but I kept going. All I knew was that I had to fight off the poison, probably from last night’s sardines– food poisoning, a first for me. Finally, I reached a small town. My stomach said no food, but I had to get some of my strength back. I got a banana split, and ate it slowly. That was another first for me; forcing myself to eat ice cream.

There was a youth hostel in Riviere de loop, so I looked forward to a warm bed. Riviere de loop was in front of me. When I broke morning camp, it was still 59 miles away. The sun had yet to peak above me, so there was time to reach the hostel, but that was before the afternoon wind picked up, and I found myself pushing as hard on the pedales to go down a hill as it was to go up the hill. The rain hadn’t started, but when it did my already miserable condition became pure hell.

The fucking rain stopped me. But even if it didn’t, the wind would have. I just didn’t have the strength to continue. I slept for an hour under a carport roof. That was the second time that I had had to stop and dry out. I was hot, probably from fever. I wanted a coke. I needed a coke. I was burning up. I would have settled for anything to drink, but I was in the middle of nowhere. I tried to make myself get on my bike. When that didn’t work, I tried hitchhiking again. No luck there, either. Eventually, I did get back on my bike and when I passed a motel I stopped to get a room. When the guy said $ 18.00 for a dumpy, mildewed room, I changed my mind.

Back on the highway, I sank into a machine like trance. No sense, no feeling, just work, work, work. At the height of my trance, the pain in my aching muscles subsided, and I stopped suffering the cold, wet, wind, but I also stopped being conscious. I snapped out of it just before I passed out. There was nothing else to do except, push, push, and push some more. It was only when I thought to myself, “You son-of-bitch, this is a crime against humanity, a self-inflicted one at that,” that I realized, yes, I really was sick! Under rain, rain, and more rain, I finally came to a sign, but I was too scared to look, much too scared. The sign read, 21 miles to Riviere de loop.

That was it. I was drained, wasted, defeated, and crushed. There was a café, so I went inside, and got my coke. The lady behind the counter told me about a motel down the road. She said, “Last I checked, rooms were $16.00 a night. “I don’t care,” I responded, “I need a roof over my head, any roof.” After I ate my soup and chicken sandwich, she looked down at me while she was writing out my bill and said, “If it’s just a roof you want, you can check out the shed around back.” Somewhat surprised, but grateful, I thanked her and went out back to see what she was talking about.

Nothing was normal. I was seeing things as if I were looking down the wrong end of telescope. The shed was dirty and cluttered, but I recognized it as home. After making a space on the dirt floor, I crawled into my sleeping bag, and after ten hours of sickness and forty miles of the most hellish biking of my life, I closed my eyes and went dead to the world. In the morning I awoke soaked in sweat. At 7 a.m., after the sun was already up, I got some dry clothes out of my pack and hung my sleeping bag out on the fence to dry. After putting on warm clothes, I went back to the cafe for coffee. I felt a little better. It was a brand new day.

My first day in Quebec was not a happy one, but I feel better now. I’m practically back to normal—meaning, I’m negotiating morning rain once again. I’m in my cutoffs, and it’s a warm rain, so I guess I’m okay, let it rain. I’m presently traveling along the St. Lawrence Seaway, and am enjoying the hell out of it. However, after traveling four or five days in Quebec, I feel compelled to write down how unfriendly I have found the French Canadians. The only thing I expect upon making eye contact with somebody is some form of recognition, a smile, a hand wave, anything, but here I encounter silence and a cold stare. I do not think I am overstating my impression of these people.

There I have said it, and I will leave it at that until I get more information. That kind of behavior, accompanied wit
h an unwillingness to speak English (French is the preferred language), effectively alienates the outsider. I still have a long way to go in French Canada, but I can say right now that I will be happy to say good-bye to these people. Well, I’m off once again, back into the rain, which, I might add, is a whole lot more hospitable than the French Canadians.

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3 Responses to “After Ten Hours Of Sickness And Forty Miles Of Hellish Biking I Closed My Eyes”

  1. Beverly Says:

    Dave, That’s such a beautiful and poignant description of your Indian brother.

    What an ordeal! I can’t even comprehend what that must have felt like. To be so sick in such hellish conditions. I am amazed that you could travel at all as sick as you were. That is pure grit and determination. I’ve had food poisoning before, and I thought getting from the bed to the bathroom and back was an ordeal. Little did I know.

    I keep thinking about how much detail you recorded about your trip. I haven’t figured out yet when you found the time to document everything.

    That’s pretty sad, when the rain is more hospitable than people.

    Another fascinating blog Dave, thanks.

    Have a great week!

    Beverly

  2. Anonymous Says:

    First Dave, Thank you for your comment on my blog. 🙂 Very insightful. Secondly, this entry I have just finished reading…I have to agree with Beverly, when did you find time to document so clearly and so beautifuly this information? It sounds as if you are writing a novel of true experiences with your journal. It makes for interesting reading. Finally, the state of the world is much the same in the regards of unfriendly human beings. You still find this true today. But then again, you will and do find friendly human beings who are un afraid to be kind to their fellow human beings. For those who can extend to the world kindness, I say God Bless! Take care Dave, and God Bless to you!

  3. dave Says:

    Hi Wave. My journaling began as a way to keep me company on my road trips. After a while, though, my writing morphed into a kind of medicine for me (like vitamins); that’s why the subject matter of my posts varies. For instance, over the next month or so I’ll be dealing with dialogue. Also, on this particular bicycle trip, on three occasions—biking over the cooper river bridge, the 10 hours of sickness post, and the ending post for this trip—became writing projects for me, which means that the intensity of the experience demanded that I put extra effort into the writing. In other words, writing out the details for me was easy because in order to get it done right I took two or three days of remembering and rewriting those memories. Oh, by the way, the one that ends this trip is a kind of metaphor for the heartbreak that I experienced after I ended a seven year relationship with C.S. She’s mentioned in the first two posts of this blog.

    A referendum concerning Quebec’s succession from Canada has been on three different ballots. The first one, I believe, was back in 1978. That one, started by Rene Laveck (spelling?), was the most militant. Since then the movement has weakened and become much less militant. When I was bicycling through Quebec in 1977 I wasn’t aware that I was bicycling through a Canadian province that was ready to go to war with Canada. I hope I have cleared up some of your questions.

    Take care,
    dave

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