Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dairy Farmers of America

Brunswick, Georgia
(I should mention, I write these posts in a journal and then type them here whenever I have the internet. That should clear up any confusion about continuity.)

You can smell an ocean breeze from ten miles away, but you can feel it from fifty. The entire ride from Waycross was downwind of an inshore breeze that made for the shittiest, most taxing ride yet. Heat makes you sluggish, but wind drains the shit out of you. It's uncommunicable how frustrating the wind is, unless it's at your back. It's never at your back. The only way you can get anywhere in that kind of winds by drafting off of semis. When a semi drives by with no cars behind it, you cut into its wake and build up speed then ride back to the shoulder. It's the only place you can get enough momentum to keep a good pace.

There are countless spots where the trees stop framing the road, letting the wind flow uninterrupted across open fields. The trees don't stop the wind either, they just funnel it toward whatever stupid fucking thing is on the road opposite the wind.  Despite any bitching about wind on the trip, no other situation compares to the frustration and banality of riding over a windy bridge. Not only a steep climb or a constant flow of traffic, but wind - unhindered by anything below - made Shitty Brunswick Bridge a miserable, gnawing experience. I couldn't make it and had to push my behemoth up the bridge, while fat middle-aged men ran against traffic along the shoulders. For a ride thirty percent shorter than the last two, it took more energy than both. I did, however, get a boss burger with feta and spinach, which in no way makes me feel better about the ride.

I've been without internet since I left, making it difficult to coordinate with my itinerary. Instead of staying in a hotel for a second night, I asked some firemen if I could sleep at the station. A big, burly guy with wife-beater tan lines, a pencil thin mustache, and a lispy southern accent pointed me to the storage hallway on the side of the building. It's a tight, sloping corridor filled with fire hoses and tires. That's where I'm writing from, sweaty and lying shirtless on the ground. I'll probably regret sleeping here tomorrow, but not in a month when I still have my sixty dollars.

I have the windows open because it's absurdly hot, and I heard some loud popping down the road.  After a second of reflection I attribute it to a car backfiring or something. A few minutes later I hear on the intercom that there's been a shooting. The dispatcher said the police were already at the scene, but later radioed that the address they had was wrong. Does that mean that the police called in preemptively or is there some gangster prowling around the street like swiss cheese?

I'm sore the next morning. When I wake any part of me touching the ground had gone numb.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nothing is Faster than a Dog.

Easily the hardest part of the trip is the initial departure. There's a lot of procrastination before you go, and a lot of hesitation because it's the only day you'll be able to call it off and go back easily. At least that's how it feels. The apprehension before leaving is harder than any actual toiling along the trip.  For those interested, the first song I listened to was David Axelrod's "Jimmy T."

Waycross, Georgia

The South is fucking hot. It's only the second night and I'm cheating and staying in a hotel. The last place I stayed was a small house in Valdosta. Valdosta seemed like any other small rural city or big town I've ever seen: a highway, an Applebees, and a university I've never heard of. The people I stayed with were nice. I stayed with a guy named Val Stado and his roommate, both of whom I had seen before at some bike races in Tallahassee.

After getting lost between Tallahassee and Valdosta, I made it in after dark and was found by Val. We went to some pizza parlor where his friends were waiting. Val, his roommate, and most of his friends had tattoos along their arms causing them to get profiled while riding around that night. Someone with tattoos had committed some unnamed crime on the local campus and had cops pulling over any tattooed brunettes.

At dinner, I kept trying to figure out how this small population of twenty or so hipsters popped up in the middle of a small town. I couldn't figure out if they congregated together because of shared interests or if they shared interests because they were friends. Valdosta is a big enough place to sustain a group like that, but what happens to all the proto-hipsters in vats growing in smaller towns? Do they never develop those interests or do they never express them for lack of similar kids? Either way, I'm not the only one who thought this. Two guys from Valdosta University were there interviewing Val about the local bike scene before I left. They interviewed me about my trip too, so I'll see if I can ever get that video on here.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Monkeys is just little people with funny hands

It's less than 48 hours before I leave for Valdosta. I've spent a bundle of time and money on this trip, so I'm hoping for some pretty magnificent shit to happen.

Tarpon Springs, FL
August 20

There's a primate sanctuary along the Pinellas Trail between St. Pete and Tarpon Springs. It surprises you amid the repetitive residential areas and small towns. I'm not sure if it's my fear of chimps or a basic danger response, but hearing apes banging on bars and hooting, starting as a series of grunts and escalating to loud yelps, is terrifying. But, I don't know if I feel empathy for them or ambivalence.

I'm afraid of them because they look human-ish, and are violent, brute animals. I'm uncomfortable with the fact that an animal with the mind of a young child can tear people apart. Even Jane Goodall argues that the image of a chimp as a playful mini-human is faulty. The fact that these animals can use their hands to just tear a face off is horrific. They organize raids into other tribes to rape and murder, which end in cannibalism. Maybe it's not the chimps themselves but the familiarity with humans outside of  comfortable first world nations (although that doesn't guarantee it won't happen.) Talking about "human as an animal" is pretty well worn territory, but conceivably humans as a whole would understand the significance of murder. It's how it happens though. A chimp doesn't kill you quickly and humanely, but mauls and bites you to death. In the same way their resemblance to a human is terrifying, it makes them easy to empathize with.

Scary and stupid as they are, I wonder about the morality of keeping semi-sapient animals in isolated cells. I read somewhere that keeping a human or animal in an environment lacking cognitive stimulation results in the brain atrophying and resembling that of a stroke victim. I don't like apes, but it doesn't seem right to keep them in isolation. It raises the question of whether it's better to raise them and leave them mentally stunted or let them go endangered in the wild. A 2% genetic difference is significant, but how much isn't clear. Their lack of mental faculties doesn't guarantee they lack sentience, and that kind of isolation in humans has some pretty miserable effects.

I'm not sure how I feel about the primate sanctuary. It's neat to see wild and exotic animals, but it makes me question the rationale for keeping them in captivity. Maybe they haven't been handicapped by their captivity, but they sure looked bored. And I don't have to empathize on a level of sharing the chimps' experience to know that being bored sucks.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dear Everyone, I'm Doin' Thangs

Most of you probably know that I'm riding my bike from Tallahassee to Maine. If you don't know, I'm riding my bike from Tallahassee to Maine. I'm going to be writing on here as often as I can. Each entry will probably be an account of the trip with convoluted, philosophic bullshit added in. I'm going to have six hours a day to think about anything, so I'll be able to think of something for nearly every day of the trip. I'll be leaving on the 29th and should start writing not long after.

I love you all.