the night I slept in an abandoned farmhouseon June 17, 2004 at 1110
June 17th — I crossed the Texas-Oklahoma line about ten o’clock this morning. I’m in Boise City, Oklahoma, and it’s very OK. Here are some interesting Boise City/Cimmaron County facts:
-This is the only county in the US without a stoplight.
-The reason Oklahoma has this stupid panhandle is because Texas was a slave state during the Civil War, and no place above the Mason-Dixon line could be slave. So they cut off this 36 by 168 mile strip, and nobody wanted it for several years. They called it “No-Man’s Land” and apparently all sorts of violent shit went down here.
-on July 5, 1943, the Air Force accidentally bombed the courthouse. Oops!
Yesterday was Bloomsday, a good day for wandering aimlessly from one panhandle to another. I left Dumas (pronounced Doom-iss, not Duma or Dumbass) and rode north, not very far, to a town called Stratford. There I ate hamburgers and goofed off. I did some serious looking at issue one of the comic I’ve been working on for roughly forever, and I think I discovered the problem. The problem is that it isn’t very good. Actually, it’s awful. I had a really clear idea what I wanted when I thumbnailed it, but as I drew it totally lost track of what I’m trying to do.
This isn’t entirely my fault, because I used this comic to learn, and I learned so fast that the early pages bear no resemblance to the later pages. I’m a far, far better artist now than I was six months ago. I’m still not good, but I’ve taken a quantum leap. That’s entirely due to e4e and ASG.
All well and good, but the pages I’ve got up for e4e might as well be thrown away. Thre are about six coherent pages in the whole thing, and two of them are by Zach. Issue one was supposed to be entirely about landscape. So why are there practically no backgrounds in the whole thing? And what is everybody doing standing so close to the camera? I really need to just tear it apart and do it again. Which is what I’ve been doing. I’ve also taken George and Philip’s advice and began to script the whole story, beginning to end, in words alone. It’s a great tool to achieve some form of coherence.
But enough of that. On with the interesting bicycling stuff.
Woke up in Dumas yesterday, as I believe I mentioned. I must have rode north to Stratford, although I don’t remember that at all. But I remember Stratford, and I know I didn’t get a ride, so I must have got there somehow. After about day three on the bicycle all days start to blend, you see. I stopped in Stratford and ate a really good hamburger. Vegetarianism has gone entirely out the window.
I left Stratford for Kerrick at about 6PM, determined to get out of Texas that night. Well, about ten miles south of the border I caught up with that huge UFO-shaped cloud I was talking about on Tuesday.
The sky above me was deep grey and the wind stopped dead.
Uh-oh, I said, and got out my video camera. It’s really hard to judge distance out here, because it’s perfectly flat and you can see all the way to the horizon in every direction. I’ve had more than one experience when I watched a thunderstorm pass me, convinced it was going to hit, but it never got closer than ten miles. But I had a really bad feeling about this one, and I wanted there to be a record in case I got killed.
It was really pretty, lightning and seventeen different types of clouds, all of them grey to black.
I was bound and determined to get to Kerrick, so I rode on.
I made another two miles when the wind backed up, from the north to the south now. I could see an abandoned farmhouse just a mile ahead of me, but the wind was so strong that I literally could not make it. There were huge clouds of dust cutting south, and as I watched I saw them make a sudden right, cut across the highway, and start to make a circle around me.
Now I had a -really- bad feeling about this.
I turned around and started pedaling south. Then I stopped pedalling and went even faster. The wind like as to picked me up — I must have been going twenty to thirty, and I wasn’t moving my feet. Tumbleweed was coming from all over to ambush me, smacking into the tires and going SPWANNGG away. The dust storm built into a tower many stories high. I wanted to get off this road -now.- I went right to get to a farmhouse I saw off County Road H, stumbled through the gate, and ran around yelling “Hello! Hello?”
Nobody was there. There was a big brown spot where a mobile home used to be, a cinder-block barn open to the south, and a bunch of dilapidated chicken coops. There weren’t even any animals there, except the occasional rabbit and some of those yellow birds with the split tails. I found junk mail and old newspapers blowing around the yard and some ET movie cards. The mail was all to Floyd and Mrs. Floyd Ellison, and all dated from 1988 to 1990. I mean, nobody was there. The wind was blowing like hell, the temperature dropped to the 50s, and there was no way to make it to town or -anywhere.- I realised I was about to spend my first night outside.
I made myself a nest in the barn and watched the rain come in. It was too dark to read by eight o’clock, nothing to do but watch the lightning and listen to the rain. Some pigeons came in to share the barn with me. It was extremely spooky and extremely cold. I put on every item of clothing I have (thermal underwear, corduroy, two pairs of shorts and two shirts, a long-sleeve shirt, and a pair of socks) and I was still cold. I wrapped my feet up in a plastic garbage bag and put three towels over myself as the closest thing I had to a blanket and fell asleep.
After all that I managed not to be -too- cold during the night. If things got much worse I would have started a fire, but considering I was in a wood-roofed barn, and I did not own that barn, I held off on that and made it OK. It was very dark and scary, and I was really spooked at first. But it would have taken an extremely motivated serial killer to get at me through that storm, and I would have heard him splucking through the mud anyway. So I slept and I slept pretty well.
I woke up in the morning, blissfully unmurdered, and put all my stuff back on the bike. I took my sandals off to hike the half-mile through the mud, and then I was back on the highway. Stopped in Kerrick for some coffee (I don’t usually drink coffee, but it was cold and coffee is hot) and resumed the road. Travelled through some of the flattest land I’ve ever seen. The wind isn’t exactly on my side but at least it isn’t against me.
Now I’ve got 90+ miles to go to the next big town, which is not very big. This is through some of the nothing-est nothing in America, and I’m glad I’ve got plenty of food and water. I’ve also got the compass Philip gave me, duct-taped to the handlebars. It’s come in handy many, many times.
Sorry to say, I almost certainly will not be biking all the way to California. If I knew then what I know now, I would have taken the southern route through Albuquerque and gone up the San Fernando Valley. Now I’m up near the Westerlies, which are nearly constant winds going west to east across the Great Basin and Colorado. Going up a mountain would be challenging enough without a twenty-mile wind in my face. When you’re in a bicycle, you take the windspeed and add it to your pedalling speed and get what you’re really going. Or, in this case, subtract. I’d be pedalling twenty-five miles an hour for an actual speed of five miles an hour. Up a mountain.
So I’m gonna meet my friends Bill and Melissa in Estes Park, and then catch a ride to Alturas CA. After that I’ll go to San Diego, Austin, or Kentucky, depending on what I feel like doing. When you start any trip the fun is in the travel, but the comes a point where the fun wears off and you just want to get where you’re going. I’m not to that point yet, but I will be someday.
Not soon, though. I’ve got at least four hundred miles of fun left. Texas didn’t want to let me go without a fight, but I finally got out. Now let’s see what’s next….